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2010/1 Module Catalogue
 Module Code: POL1004 Module Title: SOCIAL PROBLEMS & SOCIAL POLICY
Module Provider: Politics Short Name: POL104
Level: HE1 Module Co-ordinator: BROOKS RM Dr (Politics)
Number of credits: 20 Number of ECTS credits: 10
Module Availability

Year Long

Assessment Pattern

Unit(s) of Assessment
Weighting Towards Module Mark (%)
Coursework - Essay (1500 words)
Essay (2000 words)
Formal exam (2 hrs)
Qualifying Condition(s)
  • 50% attendance at tutorials/seminars is required to take the final exam

Module Overview

This module provides students with an introduction to key issues and “problems” in the area of social policy. It seeks to explore theoretical approaches and develop students’ ability to think critically about questions of “public concern”.



Module Aims

This module aims to: 

  • Develop students’ understanding of the ways in which ‘social problems’ come to be defined in society, and the factors that shape policy responses to such problems. 
  • Introduce students to a range of theoretical approaches that have been used to analyse social problems, and encourage students to apply these to a number of contemporary ‘social problems’.
  • Develop students’ capacity to think critically about social policy, and to relate the academic study of policy to questions of public concern. 
  • Give students the opportunity to analyse policy documents. 
  • Develop students’ skills at constructing reasoned argument.
Learning Outcomes

Subject Specific Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module students will be able to: 

  • Analyse how specific social problems have come to be defined within contemporary society. 
  • Discuss the policy measures that have been developed in response to these social problems. 
  • Identify the main approaches that have been used to analyse social problems. 
  • Demonstrate how these approaches may be applied to a number of contemporary social issues.

Generic Learning Outcomes and Skills

Cognitive Skills

On completion of this module, students should be able to: 

  • Gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information from a variety of secondary and some primary sources. 
  • Identify, investigate, analyse, formulate and advocate solutions to problems. 
  • Construct reasoned argument, synthesize relevant information and exercise critical judgement. 
  • Engage in interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary debates. 
  • Apply theoretical frameworks to policy/empirical analysis.

Transferable skills

On completion of this module, students should be able to: 

  • Communicate effectively and fluently in speech and writing. 
  • Use communication and information technology for the retrieval and presentation of information, including, where appropriate, statistical or numerical information. 
  • Work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organization and time-management.

Practical skills

On completion of this module, students should be able to: 

  • Make appropriate use of information and communications technology. 
  • Manage their own time effectively.
Module Content

The first part of the module will introduce students to the academic study of social problems, emphasising its interdisciplinary nature.

  • What are ‘social problems’? 
  • The emergence of the ‘social problem’ as a social scientific category. 
  • The conflict between seeing issues as socially structured or embedded in individual behaviour. 
  • Theoretical models that help us to understand how specific issues come to be defined as ‘social problems’ at particular times. 
  • The relationship between social problems and social policy.

The second part of the module will encourage students to apply some of the theoretical approaches covered in the first part to a range of issues that are commonly defined as ‘social problems’ within contemporary society. The specific issues that are covered may vary from year to year, to reflect current debates, but are likely to include some of the following: 

  • Asylum seekers. 
  • Teenage pregnancy. 
  • Domestic violence. 
  • Poverty. 
  • ‘Educational failure’.
Methods of Teaching/Learning

Lectures; Seminars; Small group discussion; Student presentations; Prescribed reading; Independent research.

Selected Texts/Journals

Alcock, P, et al. (eds.) (2003) The Student’s Companion to Social Policy, 2nd ed. Oxford: Blackwell.

Bacchi, C. (1999) Women, Policy and Politics: The Construction of Policy Problems. London: Sage. 

Jamrozik, A. & Nocella, L. (1998) The Sociology of Social Problems: Theoretical Perspectives and Methods of Intervention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Le Grand, J., Propper, C. & Robinson, R. (1992) The Economics of Social Problems. London: Macmillan.

Manning, N. (ed.) (1985) Social Problems and Welfare Ideology. Aldershot: Gower Publishing Company Ltd.

May, M. et al., (eds.) (2001) Understanding Social Problems. Issues in Social Policy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Rubington, E. (1989) The Study of Social Problems: Six Perspectives, 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Saraga, E (ed.) (1988) Embodying the Social: Constructions of Difference. London: Routledge/Open University.

Titmuss, R. (1950) Problems of Social Policy. London: HMSO.

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